On Tuesday at Wembley there will be a duel between two European giants, Italy and Spain, which have a rich history of relationships. You don’t have to go far: in the final of Euro 2012, the Spaniards defeated the Italians and took their last major trophy at the moment. Now the draw has brought long-standing rivals together in the semifinals – you need to make the last effort to issue a ticket to the decisive battle. Good odds for the matches of the European Championship are given by the 1xBet bookmaker.
Nicolo Barella’s sixth international goal – Italy has won every game he has excelled in – and Lorenzo Insigne’s incredible 2-1 shot against Belgium in the quarterfinals helped Squadra Azzurra extend their record unbeaten streak to 32 games. Bright play in attack has already become the hallmark of Roberto Mancini’s team at this tournament, but in the battle with the “red devils”, the demonstration of traditional Italian strength in defense undoubtedly had a decisive influence. Juventus veterans Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini were able to dampen the threat posed by Romelu Lukaku, while Leonardo Spinazzola made an incredible save at the goal line in the second half before being injured.
The win set Italy another record, as the squadra were the first team to win 15 consecutive UEFA European Championship matches, counting the main event and qualifying, and only the fourth in Euro history to win five consecutive finals. Mancini’s men have won each of their last 13 matches in all tournaments, with their last defeat back in September 2018 against Portugal. The fiasco was salting the wounds sustained in the 2018 World Cup qualifying, but since then Italy has experienced a real renaissance. The coaching staff went through several personnel options before settling on a relatively young, energetic team, in which, of course, there was a place for some “dinosaurs”.
Before the playoffs, Italy won every match in Group A (against Turkey, Switzerland and Wales), and before Austria moved the game to extra times in the 1/8 finals (2-1), the Italians did not miss more than 1000 minutes. In terms of attack, the 11 goals scored in this Euro are the team’s best result in a major tournament since the Italians scored 12 at the 2006 World Cup. Strong arguments for winning the first continental trophy after the triumph at home in 1968!
If Italy has won the Euro only once in its history, then reaching the final twice (in 2000, and then in 2012, when it was defeated by Spain), then its closest rival claims the fourth continental crown, which will make Spain the most successful national team in the history of the tournament. The Spaniards, who have overcome the group stage and the first two rounds of the playoffs, are inspired by the fact that each time they have passed the quarterfinal stage, they raised the cup over their heads.
However, the road to the semifinals for Luis Enrique’s team was littered with bumps and potholes. Like France before them, the Spaniards were forced to resort to a weekend shootout to knock out hard-line Switzerland (1-1). It was the second grueling 120+ minute fight in a row after a spectacular 5-3 overtime victory over Croatia in the 1/8 finals. The hero of the Roja fury was its goalkeeper Unai Simon, who dragged the punches of Fabian Sher and Manuel Acanji before Ruben Vargas fired above the goal, and an accurate shot from Mikel Oyarzabal’s point sent Spain to the semifinals. Despite a sluggish start, Enrique’s men have already scored 12 goals in the tournament, repeating their record set during the triumphant campaigns of 2008 and 2012.
Spain are unbeaten in 13 straight games in all competitions, but seven of them have ended in a draw. What does this mean? Yes, all about the same – “La Roja” remain masters in ball control and accurate passes, but they clearly lack efficiency in the final phase. As well as reliability in defense. Unlike Italy, Spain was unable to bring its “dinosaurs” to the Euro, which is why the center of defense almost always looks pale.
Scheduled for October, the meeting in the semifinals of the League of Nations will be the 38th in this confrontation: Spain won 13 victories, Italy – 11, it is interesting that both teams scored 51 goals. They last met in the 2018 World Cup qualifier when La Roja won at home and tied away, but the Italians beat the Spaniards 2-0 at the previous Euro five years ago when Spain were relegated to the round of 16. In fact, the 2010 world champion hasn’t made it to the semi-finals of major tournaments since his 2012 triumph ended a four-year period of the fury’s global dominance. Of course, Enrique’s team will be determined to extend their stay in the English capital for a few more days.
Italy – Spain: author’s prediction
These rivals meet for the third Euro in a row, and each time it is very difficult to predict the outcome of the confrontation. It may very well be that the fate of a ticket to the final will be decided by the individual skill of one performer or another. However, there is a rather significant factor, in my opinion. The Spaniards had two grueling 120-minute playoff matches, the Italians only one. In general, the “squadra” looks more prepared for the Euro, both mentally and physically. I bet on Italy.